We are continuing our quest to #avoidcrowds in our outings, with mixed results. We found a trail access to the Nashua River Rail trail as it travels through Groton, MA but the grade crossing had no parking. So we set off to find a safe place to park and set up our adaptive tandem.
Sometimes we are lucky, and this day we found not only some great spots for road biking, we also found The General Field, accessed directly from Rt. 111, a conservation area in Groton open to the public, with mown paths that welcome visitors, and stunning views of the Monadnock mountains in the distance.
We parked and set up our bike, and met briefly an older visitor who quickly let us know this is his twice a week visit. He had a trash bag and grabber, and was soon methodically strolling the paths looking for trash to pick up. Conservation areas benefit greatly from the efforts of volunteers such as this lone man, faithfully visiting one spot time after time.
We planned to ride back over to the Nashua River Rail Trail in Groton. From Rt. 111, we headed south a short distance to Culver Road, then turned onto Smith Street, to the trail access (and no parking). Sadly we had not left early enough, it was almost mid-day and the trail was filled with visitors. Too bad we had not followed our own advice to #Getoutearly to avoid crowds. So we pedaled on along the road and began exploring.
In the past we have stayed strictly on rail trails in hopes of avoiding road traffic. But the past three months have pushed us off rail trails and onto local country roads in hopes of avoiding the crowds that have flocked to any and all local rail trails. We still do our best to stay off numbered highway routes that carry large numbers of cars and trucks, and stick to side roads.
On this visit to Groton we stumbled across some great views of the mountains, as well as some conservation areas we had never heard of before.
While pedaling down one dead end road, we discovered what apparently was an old cart path, on one side of which is Groton town conservation land, the other side is posted as MA Audubon Property, which turned out to be a portion of Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.
The cart path was pretty challenging for our tandem bike, so after riding perhaps a quarter mile, we turned around.
We had traveled north a ways and encountered another entrance to the Nashua River Rail trail near Groton Center, where there is parking, and decided to give it another chance. Alas, it appears that visitors to this rail trail feel no reason to wear masks while in public. What a huge difference from our experience of just a few days before when we visited the Upper Charles Trail in Holliston.
Might these signs in Holliston have made the difference?
Perhaps those who oversee the Nashua River Rail trail could take a cue from the folks in Holliston. In Holliston, one or two people were NOT wearing masks. while at the Nashua River Rail trail, we spotted only one or two on the trail (besides ourselves) wearing masks of any sort. Everyone else, including many families with young children, appeared to forget that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. It’s hard to know what else needs to be said to impress people. With storm clouds looming, we left the rail trail and the crowds as soon as we could and headed back for our truck.
We hope to return to Groton in the fall, when the wide open spaces at the General Field will be waiting to wow visitors looking for views. On this visit it was great to see the milkweed blossoming, unmown fields offering sanctuary to ground nesting birds like bobolinks, as well as many other beautiful summer flowers.
We found another trail down to the Nashua River we want to investigate further, but on this trip, we heeded the weather report, and got under cover before the predicted storms rolled in. For now, we are grateful for needed rain, trust everyone pays attention to the weather, and #checkweatherreports before heading outside. Happy Trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.